Issue of August 24, 2014

Courier Anniversary Issue
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Uncertain Solutions

The problematic waste disposal system which has hounded Baguio even prior to the 2011 trash slide will remain the city’s biggest challenge yet with long-term solutions far from realization.

The opposition from claimants and a community that live near the site where Baguio’s landfill will be established are one of the indications that the quest to end exportation of garbage might not be happening soon.

Exacerbating the problem is the increase in the amount of waste being hauled of Baguio in the first six months of the year compared to last year. At face value this indicates added expense for tipping and hauling fees, but more than that, it showed that we are failing in the campaign to reduce the amount of residual wastes.

It showed that the most basic waste reduction method, which is to segregate at source, is poorly implemented. Population increase and a rise in economic activities may be contributory to the increase as claimed by the General Services Office but this clearly showed that waste reduction strategies as spelled out in the 10-year solid waste management plan is no longer attune to the present situation.

Now we hear the president of the Association of Barangay Councils say another method should be adopted because segregation is obsolete.

How can we embrace “modern” methods of disposal such as waste-to-energy conversion and engineered landfills when segregation could not even be observed?

Remember the ERS machines that our mayor said will complement the city’s disposal system? Apparently the machines failed to produce compost dry enough to be used as fertilizer. The machines, which by the way reportedly consumes too much fuel and electricity, is turning out to be a white elephant. 

The 10-year solid waste plan would have been the blueprint which the city government should follow in the course of the implementation a waste management system. But from what we are witnessing, there is inconsistency in policies depending on who seats as “garbage czar.”

When Engr. Nazita Bañez was head of the Solid Waste Management Division of the Cepmo, designation of garbage staging areas in every purok in the barangays was discouraged because it was difficult to monitor households that do not segregate. Staging areas also turned out to be mini dumpsites. At present there is another clamor by waste collectors that there should be a staging area to hasten collection.

Where is consistency in policies? Does it depend on who is the incumbent? Should it not be based on a plan which should remain constant regardless of who is at the helm? Was the plan approved by the Solid Waste Board and contained inputs by technical experts?

City officials are not entirely to blame for they are doing all they could to solve the problem. The citizenry should also share the burden. Before the ABC president declares a shift in methods, he must first see to it that policies are respected. If not, barangays might also want to revive the shame campaign employed several years ago to remind citizens of their responsibilities.

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